A Middle Barton man who was forced into early retirement due to ill health is trying to raise money for a mobility aid in order for him to carry on his charitable work.
Richard Brown, 40, was diagnosed with an inherited genetic disease which causes progressive damage to the nervous system while he was still in his teens. Friedreich’s Ataxia - FA for short - affects coordination causing the sufferer to rely on the use of a wheelchair.
Richard said: “My disability is progressive. I have used a wheelchair since going to university in 2000 and drove from 2004 until I retired in 2011.”
Richard worked for local authorities in both Oxfordshire and parts of the Midlands before relocating to Middle Barton with his wife and two young children after his enforced retirement.
Far from sitting back and relaxing in his new rural surroundings, Richard threw himself into voluntary and charity work including becoming a parent-governor at the Middle Barton Primary School and becoming a Trustee of Ataxia UK, the national charity that represents others with a range of disabilities, of which his is one.
Richard also undertook two particularly arduous physical challenges in 2014, first taking part in a tandem skydive followed by a the completion of the Birmingham half marathon with a partner, while dressed as Batman and Robin.
These accomplishments alone raised almost £2,000 for Ataxia UK.
Moving from an urban setting into the leafy confines of Middle Barton, however, has had one major and profound negative impact on Richard’s ability to continue his charitable and volunteer work - the lack of available public transport.
The limitations placed on Richard due to his reliance upon public transportation were exacerbated by the removal of the village’s bus service in February 2016.
Richard took this negative and turned it into a positive, rallying around the villagers to preserve their links to the wider world.
Richard said: “Following the withdrawal of public transport this February this year, I helped set up and run OurBus Bartons, the village’s new community transport company, taking about 500 passengers a month on journeys they would have struggled to make otherwise.”
Richard is now aiming to improve his own mobility restrictions with the aid of a high tech add-on to his wheelchair named the Batec Electric, but the device costs a whopping £8,000.
Richard said: “Just before Christmas, I tried an electric cycle attachment for my wheelchair. It was fantastic, and clear how it would improve my life. I would be able to go to meetings, visit friends and pick my daughter up from school in the village - but beyond that, I’d be able to take more of a part in family holidays and engage with the beautiful countryside I live in.”
To follow Richard’s story and help him raise the funds for the Batec click here.